No, number two pencils aren’t number one.

Remember standardized testing: bubbling in the letters for your first and last name, making sure to write in block letters, memorizing your ID number, making sure you bubbled in all the bubbles neatly, avoiding the temptation to build a Christmas tree in the answer space…

Oh, and making sure you do all this with a number two pencil. The teachers would walk around the room, making sure you’re using an acceptable pencil (and come to think about it, what pencils sold in the school supply aisle weren’t number two?). You kept your eraser handy in case you skipped a question and bubbled number eight’s answer in number seven’s spot.

But what’s so special about number two? Remember the tree bears? Papa Bear’s porridge was too hot, Mama Bear’s was too cold, and Baby Bear’s was just right. Baby Bear would really like number two pencils since they’re right in the middle of the pencil hardness spectrum. Mama and Papa would disapprove. I think Mama was an artist and Papa was an architect. They never told us that in the story.

Be thankful you can own a pencil sharpener now, though. If you lived in Britain a hundred years ago, you would have had an illegal item on your hands.

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